The Detroit Red Wings are not for everyone. While we have a history of claiming guys cast off from other franchises, there are countless examples of hopefuls who are given a chance to make the big squad and only stay for a cup of coffee. Most of the time, we trust in Kenny and go about our business – if it wasn’t meant to be, so be it. We move on, and the Darryl Bootland’s of the world continue their journey through hockey’s maze of elite and junior level clubs.
Still, we get an odd sense of attachment to our prospects. I can think of a few guys, right now, who I would be thrilled to get some time with the big squad – the ones who barely missed the cut this year, who got sent back to Grand Rapids because of contract flexibility or who just weren’t quite good enough. Nyquist, Smith…heir time is coming.
There are also those odd cases of players who got thrust into the system in weird circumstances, who you can’t help but root for out of the selfish hope for what they might become – that odd steal from a far-away league…that former first rounder who just didn’t work out in some lesser Eastern Conference outpost. I, for one, was damn excited about what former proprietor of the Leino Lounge, Ville “Gotcha, Buffalo” Leino had the potential to do here. I’m trying to get there with our newest project, Bruno. Time will tell.
The point is this – sometimes guys come here and stick, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes when we show them the door, we do so with a bit of remorse and apprehension. Other times, we wash our hands and move on.
Why is this timely? Did the Wings let someone go today? No…no they didn’t…but someone from our past who we had to show the door just got punted to a new squad, and it seems timely to ask this question: Of our former system guys…if they were here for a year or a half decade…who are you most proud of what they’ve done since they left?
It’s an odd question but one made simpler with the realization of how happy I am to see Sean Avery not wearing a Winged Wheel any more. I never liked Avery. I always thought he was some trashed out version, some half-sized truck equivalent of the hombres Detroit has been proud to call legitimate “tough guys”…Mac, Joey. Every stop Avery made after Detroit reaffirmed my gut feeling that he was a dick, that he didn’t have a place on this team or in this game, and that eventually what little skill he had would be outpaced by his lack of respect for our game – a sentiment I stole, unabashedly, from Ken Holland.
When we shipped him off to LA for Schneider in 2002, I couldn’t have been happier. I had lingering memories of Schneider’s booming shot from the point in previous Wings games and the swap seemed like another lightning strike of Kenny genius. His squabbles with everyone from a charitable Chris Chelios who opened up his home during the lockout to the Duck’s announcing crew went on to make that trade look pretty damn good…and yes, it is incredibly painful to defend anything Anaheim in this space.
Avery is now taking his shitbag talents to Hartford, where he will no doubt underwhelm the lovely citizens of a state whose motto, quixotically, is “He Who Transplanted Still Sustains.” Take from that what you will.
So the question here on this fine non-hockey Wednesday is this: of the Wings castoffs, who are you have that soft spot for? Who is your Anti-Avery?